A Flip Side to The Story of Christian Dating On Campus
A dating model was recently proposed by Titus Willis in his op-ed, Serious Dating That Works. The model has three “distinct characteristics, all of which have significant (but not exclusive) links to Christian literature and Evangelical tradition.” Firstly, this model attends to serious relationships with marriage in both partners’ minds. Secondly, it encourages both partners to focus primarily on each other’s emotional needs. Thirdly, it supports the idea of abstinence from sex until marriage.
What I find misrepresentative is that Titus only portrayed one side to the story of Christian dating on campus, leaving out the perspectives from his Christian minority brothers and sisters.
I agree with the biblical philosophy behind the dating model and appreciate Titus’s effort to promote serious dating, yet what I find misrepresentative is that Titus only portrayed one side to the story of Christian dating on campus, leaving out the perspectives from his Christian minority brothers and sisters. Has he ever considered that some people struggle in dating not because they do not have a model that works, but because they have a hard time finding a point of connection due to their ethnic minority background?
For a point of reference, according to a friend of mine at our campus ministry, Christian Union, in the past five years, not a single black woman in Christian Union has been in a relationship. Nonetheless, there are many examples of non-White men dating White women. In this case, a majority of non-White women are left out in the campus dating scene because they don’t have as much social mobility, which takes the form of point of connection, and according to Biblical tradition, they should wait to be pursued, but the dilemma is there are no men pursuing them.
Titus’s article has addressed the countercultural realities of Christian dating involving the aforementioned three characteristics, but it leaves out the perspectives from Christian ethnic minorities, who abide by biblical teachings on relationship yet are still single. Therefore, I want to offer a flip side to the story of Christian campus dating.
I am an Asian Christian who grew up in China, believing in the Marxist saying “religion is the opiate of the masses.” The first time I encountered Christians was at the boarding school I attended founded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody. My relationships with Christians were interwoven with questions like: how come these religious people are both self-assured and humble at the same time? Comparing them to my friends back home who would do plastic surgeries to look prettier, I wondered: how can I be as confident and humble?
Driven by the belief in man’s perfectibility, I took an academic approach towards Christianity. My Christian journey started from my sole belief in the miracle that Christ has risen from death. I couldn’t prove that the miracle happened except via abductive reasoning. If the miracle were a lie, then the question is: who would make up the lie and what was their motivation? It could not be the Romans who killed Christ. It could not be the Jews who disclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. It could not be Jesus and the disciples, who were most likely to make up the story for the sake of social advancement: yet they all martyred, and why would anyone die for a lie that did not serve any of their self-interests? It does not make sense. I did my due diligence, and took my leap of faith as I developed habits of faith.
If you think that’s a “live happily ever after” ending, well, think again. Henceforth, I have fallen into the gulf between two cultures and I have struggled to live in it since. Alienation from my former worldly environment was a result of my deliberation that followed after my conviction; then forlorn agony awaited as I found it was hard to plug myself into my ministry, Christian Union.
What I am addressing here is the problem of lacking equitable inclusiveness.
This issue is so unspeakable that at first, I thought it was a self-pity in disguise. After a few conversations with my other racial minority friends in the ministry, I found out that I was not the only one who encountered a social rejection from Christian Union as a newcomer. As racial minorities, we tried hard to build more than NSOP conversations and deeper fellowship, but we were often met with polite aloofness – people were too busy with their lives at Columbia and simply uninterested in us. Granted, this is a worldly phenomena, but isn’t Christian Union a campus ministry? However, even within the scope of a campus ministry, some people pay more attention to newcomers with social symbols of privilege or status that have cultural implications. Some examples of these symbols include, but are not limited to, preppy outfits, high school degree from a boarding school, prestigious internships, etc. Newcomers, often of racial minorities, who do not display or are not even aware of these social symbols, get less attention and thus may feel that they are left out of the niche.
One might ask, why are you still staying at Christian Union? Why don’t you go to a Chinese ministry? Frankly, I did spend my sophomore year hopping around campus ministries. I made my decision to stay at Christian Union because of its staff who equally care about their students, my friends who support me and also hold me accountable, and my belief that diversity – ethnic, culture, gender, whatever – is good. Firstly, diversity helps improve Wall Street traders’ performance. In a paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences, Sheen S Levine of Columbia University found that Wall Street traders set prices more accurately when ethnical diversity is present. Specifically, ethnically diverse groups are 21 percent more accurate over time while ethnically similar groups became 33 percent less accurate over time.1 Secondly, exposure to diversity decreases confirmation bias, which is the tendency to favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. As much as we are prone to stay with people who are more likely to agree with our beliefs, we are not growing if we stay inside of the comfort zone. Thirdly, diversity is beneficial to the advancement of kingdoms of God. The immediate gifts granted by the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Christ’s ascension is different skills which set the foundation for the Church establishments in the rest of Roman Empire.2 Therefore, I try hard to step out of my comfort zone and initiate new relationships of any sort with people from all kinds of cultural background.
I agree with Titus’s point that being in a serious relationship with the aforementioned three characteristics is rare at Columbia, as the popular culture tries to convince the student body to “relax” and “be casual” about romantic relationship. Christians are counter-cultural in that we carry the abstinence mindset into relationships for the sake of salvation as well as collective better social well being: as Titus mentioned in his article, couples who practice sexual abstinence until marriage have an only five percent divorce rate.3 Therefore, the scope of dating for Christians at Columbia who follow Titus’s model is significantly limited, and it is by God’s grace to meet a significant other who shares similar cultural background, like Titus and Taylor did.
I am not offended by Titus’s op-ed nor am I upset because I do not have as much social mobility as he does, which is a fact that I cannot change. In reality, I am incredibly grateful for the struggles that have inspired my spiritual matureness, and that is the will of God in Christ for me.4 I love God and I care much about my campus ministry. Thus, I want to encourage my brothers and sisters of racial minorities who have similar experiences to continue to abide by Christ’s teaching without complaints, so that we may be blameless and innocent children of God in the midst of a morally crooked generation, among whom we shine as lights.5
At the same time, I also urge my White brothers and sisters in Christ to be more thoughtful and open-minded to (romantic or non-romantic) relationships with minority brothers and sisters; and try to listen not with a sense of defensiveness, but a sense of humbleness. After all, we are baptized in Christ, and our union with Him is at the core of our identity despite whatever ethnic background we come from. Let’s reflect this union with Christ in the relationships with one another.
Caroline Zeng’18 is a devoted member of Christian Union at Columbia.
2 Acts 2:3
4 1 Thessalonians 5:18
5 Philippians 2:14-15